I have been spoiled during the pandemic. Yes, I know, we all had a lot to complain about — the cabin fever, the anxiety surrounding every cough and every hot flash — but inconvenience aside, shopping online was epic.
For someone who grew up when the only thing delivered to your door was the occasional pizza, the ability to order everything online from groceries to glamping gear and have it appear at your doorstep, sometimes within hours, changed life.
As the pandemic has transformed shopping forever, consumers have also learned that just because you can order anything online doesn’t mean you should.
When buying something for your home, where feel, color, smell, or comfort is important, you better get your things off the couch and go to a store ─ unless you already know the product. For example, if you like a friend’s toaster and want to order the same online, go for it. But if the item belongs to one of the following categories or cannot be returned, think twice before buying it online.
Mattress : You really have to experience something as personal and expensive as a mattress before buying it. I bought my mattress after having had a particularly wonderful night’s sleep in a nice hotel. I picked up the leaves, took a photo of the label and went looking.
Pillows: Pillow preferences are also personal and you cannot rely on descriptions. One vendor’s soft and fluffy may be firm and dense in another. To feel is to believe.
Covered: Considering most people only buy cutlery once or twice in their lifetime, this is not a choice to be made on the fly. You have to handle it, feel its weight and its balance. (Spoiler alert: Join me next week when I talk to an American cutlery maker who sells cutlery online, but only after trying samples at home.)
Large household appliances: Before spending big bucks on a major appliance — a refrigerator, washer, dryer, or dishwasher — experience it in person. Open and close the door. Find out how the moving parts work and if the surface finish has fingerprints.
Upholstered furniture: When comfort is king, as it is with a sofa, don’t decide on a photo alone. When ordering my sectional, I sat on a sample of the sofa in a store and sat on different types of upholstery. I ordered fabric swatches to test, and using tape, traced out how the sectional would lay on the floor. Then I ordered it online.
Rugs: Because you have to consider size, pattern, material, color, quality, and how it blends in with everything else in the room, area rugs are the most popular home accessory. difficult that you can buy. If you get any of these factors wrong, the mat will fail. Take several back to a local store to try them out. If you see a rug online that you like, order the size of the doormat to see what the colors look like in your room and to judge the quality. A short mat is easier to return.
To paint: You can no more choose a paint color online than you can choose a perfect mate from a picture. You just don’t know how either will turn out until you bring them home. The paint colors are different on the monitors compared to the real thing. Also, the color will change in the light of your home. To choose paint correctly, bring samples home, then get a few paint samples and paint them on boards. Look at them at different times of the day on different walls, then buy the paint at a paint store.
Floor: Likewise, seeing an online photo of a tile, wood or laminate floor in a staging is not the same as being able to stand on it, see its shine and feel its texture.
Scented candles or soaps: These items must pass the sniff test, which the last time I checked was not an option online. If you like a floral-scented soap or candle from a specific company, buy it online in bulk. But if you’re unfamiliar with the brand, you might be disappointed that what the company says smells like garden bouquet, smells like rotten grass to you.
Marni Jameson is the author of six books on home and lifestyle, including “Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go” and “Downsizing the Blended Home – When Two Households Become One”. Contact her at www.marnijameson.com.